Troup seniors getting their shot

Published 11:01 pm Wednesday, February 6, 2019


Daily News

They came a long way.

In 2015, the Troup Tigers won one football game, and that came on the final night of the regular season.

Flash forward three years, and the Tigers were one of the state’s elite teams.

Troup, with a talented and committed group of seniors leading the way, went 12-2 last fall and reached the Class AAAA semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Blessed Trinity.

Many of those seniors, most of whom came into the program as freshmen in 2015, are getting an opportunity to play the game on the next level.

Six Troup players have already signed their letters of intent to play college football, and more will make their decisions in the coming days and weeks.

In December, King Mwikuta took advantage of the early signing period and signed with the University of Alabama.

On Wednesday morning, five more Troup players made it official when they signed their letters of intent.

Three Troup players, Joko Willis, Alonzo Ogletree and Tyree Carlisle, are headed to Kansas to play for Independence Community College.

Independence has developed a national following in recent years because  of the popular television series “Last Chance U.”

Also for Troup, Jamari Thrash will play for Georgia State University in Atlanta, and Jatavian Smith will join the football program at Fort Valley State.

Troup also had a baseball signee, with Jackson Knox signing with Marion Military Institute in Alabama.

Tanner Glisson, who became the head football coach in 2015 when the current seniors were freshmen, said the goal throughout the recruiting process has been finding the right fit for each player.

“All of this fanfare and everything is nice, but the number one thing is to make sure it’s the right fit for the student-athlete,” Glisson said. “You’ve got to make sure you read the fine print, and make sure it’s the right fit. And we really feel good about every spot that these guys have landed.”

Three of Troup’s players will remain together.

Willis, Ogletree and Carlisle will head to Independence, Kan. to play for head coach Jason Brown, the colorful coach who can be seen in action on the Netflix series that details everything that happens during the season for Independence.

“All three of those guys had other opportunities,” Glisson said. “When they flew those guys out there to a visit, that’s what separated it.”

Ogletree, a defensive back who led the Tigers in interceptions last season, didn’t make his decision until Wednesday morning.

“He went around and around the last few days,” Glisson said. “It just kind of felt right.”

Ogletree said “it’s very special” to continue playing with his friends and teammates.

“We’ve already got a strong bond,” Ogletree said. “To continue to play ball with them, people I know, people I have a bond with, is a blessing.”

Carlisle had a big senior season at running back with 628 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, but he’ll be a defensive back at Independence.

“They flew him out last weekend, and he really felt comfortable,” Glisson said. “He’s going do great things out in Kansas.”

Carlisle transferred to Troup for his sophomore season, and he helped the team win 29 games the past three years.

Now, Carlisle is getting an opportunity to play for one of the country’s winningest junior-college programs.

“It’s a blessing,” Carlisle said. “I worked hard every day.”

Willis stepped into the starting lineup as a sophomore, and for two years he helped anchor the defense as a linebacker.

As a senior, Willis was asked to move to wide receiver, and he excelled at that position.

Willis had a team-leading 39 catches with eight touchdowns.

“He had about three schools that he was looking at, trying to make a decision,” Glisson said. “All of them were great choices. All of them were offering great deals for him. It boiled down to where he felt comfortable.”

Two other Troup standouts are staying in their home state.

Smith, who had a big senior season as a linebacker, will join the Fort Valley State program.

When Smith visited the Fort Valley campus, he felt at home.

“When I went on my visit, all the students and football players came and I talked to them, and interacted with them,” Smith said. “They told me about how good Fort Valley was, so I decided to go.”

Heading off to college will be an adjustment for Smith.

He’ll not only have to get used to college life, but he’ll also be without his father Tretorian Smith, who is an assistant coach at Troup.

“He’s been coaching me all my life,” Smith said. “Ever since I was four, he’s been coaching me in football, basketball, and everything.”

Thrash transferred to Troup from LaGrange High as a sophomore, and he enjoyed three phenomenal seasons as a wide receiver.

“When he walked in the door, he immediately became one of our hardest-working individuals,” Glisson said.

Thrash had 37 catches with 12 touchdowns as a senior, and he caught 61 balls with 18 touchdowns during his junior season.

Thrash had plenty of options when it came time to choose a college home, and he felt like Georgia State was the right fit.

“It’s the loyalty the coaches have paid me from the get-go,” Thrash said. “They’ve been recruiting me for a year.”

Thrash said “it means a lot” to earn a scholarship.

“My mom, she worked a lot,” Thrash said. “My parents have made sacrifices for me.”


King Mwikuta – Alabama

Jamari Thrash – Georgia State

Joko Willis – Independence Community College

Alonzo Ogletree – Independence Community College

Tyree Carlisle – Independence Community College

Jatavian Smith – Fort Valley State


Jackson Knox – Marion Military Institute

OF NOTE: For more signing-day photos, check out